She sets up a thick plank of wood on a stand. "Now who wants to go first?" I remember my bravery motto and put my hand up. The room cheers and I go and sit beside her. She shows me how to clench my fist, where to hit and tells me to focus.
I yell "HUT!" at the top of my lungs and swing my fist right through the board so hard that the ground beneath hurts my hand more than the board itself.
This is how we celebrated the end of our Wen-Do self defence course yesterday.
The teacher later explained that it would take a quarter of the strength used to break that wood to break an attacker's nose. Half to break their collarbone. To say this course is empowering is an understatement.
But what got me most wasn't the physical techniques. It was diminishing fear.
"When a woman is attacked in a movie how does she react?"
This was a question asked last Saturday. Our gently spoken teacher explained that we are constantly shown images of women who can not defend themselves. I realized my own struggles with this. I have often said that I would not want to make an attacker angrier. That I couldn't carry pepper spray for the fear or it being used against me. This is because time and time again, we repeat the idea that women cannot defend themselves. We do not hear the heroic acts of self defence that women, and even little girls, commit every day. We don't hear about the little girl in downtown Toronto who backed her foot into a man's foot as he tried to pull her into a car and broke it. Or the little girl who used Wen-Do moves her aunt taught her to break an attacker's cheekbone and nose in her schoolyard.
"How are women supposed to sound?"
She asked. The answers were: quiet, polite, feminine. Moments later she described defending herself and raised her own voice to the most powerful bear like "BACK OFF" that I have ever heard. Throughout the class she raised her voice in this manner every time she described an act of defence and it was amazing how much she grew with her voice.
I was reminded of a time that a man grabbed my ass on the metro stairs in Paris. Out of nowhere this deep loud voice bellowed out of me and yelled "CONARD!" The French word for asshole. You should have seen this guy run.
We learned to disable an attacker physically but also verbally. Every situation is different. Sometimes it makes sense to attack, sometimes it makes sense to yell "FIRE!", or to act crazy, or to gently talk someone out of a situation by humanizing it. Trust your gut.
I recommend this class to all girls and women. It is built in life insurance, a boost of strength, and a kick in the gut to fear.
At the very least, drop the fear. Choose to fight. You're stronger than you think.
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